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Bray GP Dr Rita Doyle told the Medical Independent (MI) that this is her personal opinion. However, she does not consider that the Committee is viewed as a mysterious function of the Council.
“I don’t think there is mystery surrounding it at all. I think there is lack of knowledge about it, I don’t think it has a high enough profile, would be my personal opinion about it. I don’t think there is any mystery around it – there is huge confidentiality around it, but there is no mystery…. It is there to support doctors,” she told MI.
According to the Council, the aim of the Committee is to support doctors in the maintenance of their registration during illness and recovery “where there is no patient risk that could be subject of a complaint”.
Dr Doyle reiterated her concerns about the low number of doctors engaged with the Health Committee. In December 2015, it was supporting 41 doctors, most commonly for addiction and mental health reasons. Overall, there are more than 20,000 doctors registered in Ireland.
In New Zealand, which has a similar demographic, there are over 400 doctors attending their equivalent, said Dr Doyle. She added that she was unaware if there were other supports for doctors in that country whereas in Ireland there is the Practitioner Health Matters Programme.
Dr Doyle said her guess is that there should be around 100 doctors attending the Health Committee.
Dr Doyle commented: “My concern would be that there are doctors out there who are sick, who are struggling, and we can help. I would like A, from their perspective to be able to support them, and B, if they are looking after patients, that it is a safe environment.”
Feedback has indicated that the Committee’s input does significantly assist doctors. “I suppose the ethos would be firm but caring,” outlined Dr Doyle.